When a deeply polarizing egotist leads an already-unpopular party, the only place to go is down, as endangered Democrats will soon realize. Some, having already learned the lessons of the Pennsylvania and Colorado Senate primary contests, are politely rebuffing—while others still downright rejecting—Barack Obama’s offers to join them on the campaign trail.
Instead, they’re tapping a surrogate-president: Bill Clinton, whose presence on the campaign trail translates to more enthusiasm among Democrats and Independents, according to a recent Gallup survey. Now, as I write in an op-ed for Fox News today, that must be a tough pill for Obama to swallow, otherwise he’d be a recluse for the next 6 days.
In a January strategy session with a handful of endangered incumbents, President Barack Obama took exception to the notion that brewing public opposition to his party’s landmark legislative victories somehow portended massive Democratic losses this fall. Republican-fomented speculation that the 2010 midterm election would mirror the 1994 midterm elections, which famously robbed President Bill Clinton of his majority in the House of Representatives, the president insisted, was greatly overblown.
And unlike sixteen years before, the president told his concerned colleagues the “big difference” would be “me.” The problem for Democratic candidates, according to a new Gallup survey, is that their base prefers the man who presided over the last great Democratic electoral loss than the man likely to preside over the next.
Fifty-three percent of Democratic voters say they would be more inclined to vote for a given candidate if the former President Clinton campaigned on that candidate’s behalf, whereas only 48 percent said the same of President Obama. Among Independents and Republicans, the margin between the two grew even wider.
In at least a dozen instances, the election efforts of high-profile House and Senate Democratic candidates are at least in part predicated on a rejection of the president’s administration and its increasingly unpopular domestic agenda.
Barack Obama is so manifestly unpopular that voters—and indeed candidates, at least the honest ones—overwhelmingly prefer as a surrogate a man whose presidential tenure was marred by philandering and impeachment proceedings. And despite holding a 23-point advantage last year, Obama is now tied in a measure of approval with a man virtually chased from the White House in 2008 by angry villagers.
If Democrats this year could have three wishes, the first, second and third would almost certainly be for Barack Obama to disappear and reappear as Bill Clinton. Or perhaps their third wish might be for Obama to reappear as Bush, under whom they performed quite well.